[FOUNTAIN]Being Heard and Understood

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[FOUNTAIN]Being Heard and Understood

Anyone watching the historic drama "Wang Geon" may have wondered whether people in the 10th century of the Later Three Kingdoms understood the languages of the other kingdoms. Was there an interpreter accompanying the emissaries of Gyeon Hwon, a ruler of Later Paekche, as they visited Wang Geon being enthroned as king of Later Koguryo?

Most academics say the people of the Three Kingdoms had very little trouble understanding each other. A professor of history at Seoul National University, Noh Tae-don, said, "There is no record to show that exchanges between Silla, Koguryo and Paekche required interpreters or that there were problems because of miscommunication."

In 642, when Silla lost the region of what is now Hapcheon in South Kyongsang province to Paekche, it dispatched Kim Chunchu, who would later be enthroned, to Koguryo to persuade it to break its alliance with Paekche and side with Silla instead. The talks failed, and Kim would be held hostage until he escaped. In the records of the incident, there is no mention of an interpreter or that it was Kim Chunchu's proficiency in the language of Koguryo that got him safely into enemy territory in the first place.

Silla's King Chinpyong's daughter was admired by Seodong from Paekche, who, as the folk tale goes, sneaked into Kyongju and serenaded her in the language of Silla. Was it that he was a man of Paekche who was fluent in the language of Silla? Or was he taking advantage of the fact that there was very little, if any, difference in the languages of the two kingdoms? Most people agree with the latter. A record from the Chinese kingdom of the time reads, "A person of Paekche was present to interpret [Chinese] for the emissaries from Silla."

So the records show that despite the continued hostility between the regions that spanned 1,500 years, the people in the peninsula were able to understand each other. But, in many ways, we find that ours is turning into a nation of people who can not understand each other. Everybody seems to be busy making sure that their points are heard on important national issues such as the tax audits of media companies and the North Korea policy. There appears to be no receiving mode; we just try to scream the loudest.

Let us look back 14 years. Back then, we were communicating wherever we were, and everything we said seemed to be understood. Both our ears and mouths were open, and there could even be heard the laughter of joy. That was June 29, 1987, the day we learned of the change to a direct presidential election.



The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun

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